Our December program was our Annual Family Dinner. It has been the custom of the Commercial Club for many years to hold our December meeting as a dinner to celebrate the holiday season in the company of friends and family. Our guest speaker was Lonnie G. Bunch III, the 14th Secretary of The Smithsonian Institution.
In this role, Secretary Bunch is responsible for administering the independent organization along with the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents, which includes the Chief Justice of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, six legislators, and nine citizens. Lonnie is the first African American to hold the position in its 173-year history. Most recently, he served as the founding director of The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).
When he started as director of the NMAAHC in July 2005, he had one staff member, no collections, no funding, and no site for a museum. But through his commitment and determination, he transformed a vision of the museum into the reality we all know today. The museum, which has welcomed more than 7.4 million visitors since it opened in September 2016, houses a collection of 40,000 objects and is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. In its first four months of operation, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture surpassed one million visits; and it remains a top destination in D.C. today.
At the event, Secretary Bunch sat down with Commercial Club Chair, Scott Santi and discussed his career from a curator at the Smithsonian to president of the Chicago Historical Society, to the Founding Director of the NMAAHC, and how these experiences led him to his current role as Secretary of The Smithsonian. He has said in his new role he was appointed to “one of the most interesting jobs in the country if not the world.”
During the reception and dinner, our guests enjoyed listening to members of the Civic Orchestra perform. The Civic Orchestra is regarded as one of the nation’s premier training programs for emerging professional musicians.
“A beautiful evening capped by an inspirational talk by Lonnie Bunch on the creation of the National Museum of African American History.”
-Arjun Aggarwal, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, HealthScape Advisors
“It was wonderful to see Lonnie back in Chicago where he has so many friends. And his stories about building the National Museum are historic themselves.”
-David Hiller, President and CEO, Robert R. McCormick Foundation
Our November luncheon was our celebration of the service of America’s veterans and active service members, and featured guest speaker General Vincent K. Brooks.
General Brooks is a career Army officer who recently retired from active duty as the four-star general in command of all U.S. Forces in Korea, where he concurrently commanded United Nations Command and the Republic of Korea—U.S. Combined Forces Command comprising over 650,000 Koreans and Americans under arms.
At the event, David Hiller, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation as well as Chair of the Commercial Club’s Veterans Working Group (VWG), provided an update on the initiatives of the VWG as it works to make the Chicago region the best place in the nation for returning veterans to find and transition into civilian employment.
After the update, David and General Brooks sat down and discussed his experiences being raised in a military household, his decision to go to West Point where his class was the first to admit women and his resulting learnings on diversity, as well as some of his most important assignments throughout his career including senior assignments in the Middle East, Kosovo, the Pacific Region, and at the Pentagon.
Please click here to learn more about the Veterans Working Group. If you wish to discuss further or join the VWG please call David Hiller at 312-445-5170.
Our guest speaker for the October luncheon was former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Sir John Major.
Sir John entered the British Parliament in 1979 and Government in 1983, where he served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sir John served as Prime Minister from November 1990 to May 1997, during which time he initiated the Northern Ireland Peace Process and led Britain into one of its longest periods of economic growth. He is currently a Senior Advisor to Credit Suisse; Chairman of the Advisory Board of Global Infrastructure Management; Chairman of the Campaign Board of King’s College London; Chairman of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee; and President or Patron of a number of UK and international charities.
At the event, Sir John sat down with Commercial Club/Civic Committee President Kelly Welsh and discussed the impact of Brexit on the UK and Ireland, the EU, and the US. He also discussed the nature of politics in the world today versus his time in office.
After winning the runoff election on April 2nd, the Lightfoot administration had a historically short transition period in which to prepare for taking over the reins of City government. During that time, and in the 100 or so days since inauguration on May 20th, a new Mayor's Office was set up, policy platforms were developed, and priority initiatives launched.
For our September program, Brian Fabes, Chief Executive Officer of Civic Consulting Alliance, moderated a conversation with those who are leading the work of the new administration - Susan Lee, Deputy Mayor, Public Safety; Sybil Madison Deputy Mayor, Education and Human Services; Samir Mayekar, Deputy Mayor, Economic and Neighborhood Development; and Candace Moore, Chief Equity Officer - about how they are building and implementing their plans and the challenges and opportunities each sees lying ahead.
The conversation also highlighted the ways in which Civic Consulting Alliance and Chicago's business community have been working with the new administration to make Chicago a great place for everyone to live in and work.
Our guest speaker was Penny Pritzker, Founder and Chairman of PSP Partners and its affiliates, Pritzker Realty Group, PSP Capital, and PSP Growth. From June 2013 through January 2017, Penny served as the 38th United States Secretary of Commerce. During this time, she was a core member of President Obama’s economic team and served as the country’s chief commercial advocate, leading the Administration’s trade and investment promotion efforts. Penny is an entrepreneur, civic leader, and philanthropist with more than 30 years of experience in numerous industries.
Since returning to Chicago, Penny has worked with member Chris Gladwin and Civic Committee President Kelly Welsh to launch P33, our technology initiative that is working to bring the Chicago community together to turbocharge Chicago’s tech economy and promote inclusive economic growth. Penny is also a member of the board of Microsoft, chairman of the board of trustees of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a co-chair of the Cyber Readiness Institute, and a member of the Harvard Corporation, the Aspen Strategy Group, and the Aspen Economic Strategy Group.
During the meeting Penny discussed her time as Secretary of Commerce, the future of jobs and the workforce in the 21st Century, her work with the P33 initiative, as well as women leadership in business.
Tom Wilson is the Chair, President, and Chief Executive Officer of The Allstate Corporation. Founded in 1931, The Allstate Corporation is the largest publicly held personal lines property and casualty insurer in America. Tom has held a number of senior executive positions at Allstate since he joined the company in 1995. In addition to his leadership at Allstate, Tom has been the chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a trustee of Rush University Medical Center, a member of the Young Presidents Organization Gold Chicago chapter, and has served as the national and Illinois Co-Chair for WE Day and as the co-chair of Get IN Chicago.
As Chicago prepared for an historical mayoral runoff election on April 2, we invited Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to discuss the key issues facing Chicago. President Preckwinkle’s career has included a number of public sector positions, beginning as a high school history teacher and serving as Alderman of the 4th Ward for 20 years and as Cook County Board President since 2010.
As Chicago awaited the outcome of its mayoral election, we heard from three members of Mayor Emanuel’s senior team. They discussed what they saw as the key accomplishments of the Emanuel Administration as well as issues to monitor in the coming administration.
February 26, 2019 brought a record-breaking mayoral election in Chicago with 14 candidates on the ballot, resulting in a runoff election. This luncheon featured a conversation with mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot, a lawyer who most recently served as a senior equity partner at Mayer Brown LLP and has held numerous public sector positions, on the key issues and policies outlined in her platform.
Despite meaningful progress, Chicago continues to have more annual homicides than New York and Los Angeles combined. Reforming the Chicago Police Department is an important part of a long-term solution to Chicago’s gun violence epidemic. Our panel of leaders in the critical efforts to reduce violence discussed the provisions, negotiations, and expected impact of the police consent decree that was approved by a federal judge in January 2019.
During his tenure, Mayor Emanuel led major initiatives to improve education, youth programming, neighborhood development, transportation, infrastructure, public health, and public safety in Chicago, and made significant improvements in the financial stability of the City. Shortly after his announcement that he would not seek a third term, Mayor Emanuel reflected on his time as Mayor and discussed his thoughts about the City’s biggest challenges and opportunities that lay ahead.